I still remember my first test ride on a Triumph Speed Triple: its stubby profile, extreme light weight, high-end components, and 1050cc in line triple powerhouse cultivated my desire to one day buy my own badass, naked bike king — and learn how to wheelie it. When Triumph introduced the Speed’s smaller, less expensive sibling, the 675cc Street Triple in 2007, I guffawed at the idea of “downgrading” such a righteous motorcycle. Despite my naïve presumption that no one would buy into a junior version of the “real” streetfighter, the Street Triple got rave reviews right out of the gate, and has been Triumph’s best-selling model ever since.
Triumph revamped the Street Triple and Street Triple R for 2013, focusing on key performance parts: chassis, brakes, suspension, and exhaust. The result is a stronger, lighter package (13 pounds lighter) with better handling and great gobs of power. Retaining its aggressive, stumpy, streetfighter profile, the bike’s rear end has a new look. The underseat exhaust is gone, now located lower on the chassis for better mass centralization and an 8-pound decrease. The all-new frame, swingarm, and suspension shift weight from the rear give the bike new steering geometry. For riders, this all translates into a better handling machine.
Leaving its Daytona 675-derived in line engine alone was no mistake. The liquid-cooled, 12-valve, triple-cylinder is strong, efficient, and produces more than enough power to make any backstreet hooligan happy. Shifting up quickly through the six well-placed gears, it’s easy to find yourself moving well above legal speed limits in no time. But one of my favorite things to do on our test Street Triple R was flog it in fifth or sixth gear to hear its super-cool, throaty exhaust tone.
Quick takeoffs require equally capable stoppers, and the Street delivers here, too. Both the Street Triple and Street Triple R now come with switchable Nissan ABS. Up to the task, the rear brakes are composed of a lone 220mm disc with a single-piston caliper. The front brakes get dual, 310mm floating discs, and the R squeezes four-piston radial calipers while less expensive two-piston sliders stop the standard Street.
The new, stronger, lighter frame offers stability under pressure, and handling is aided further by an all-new suspension on both bikes, though they differ. Both versions get 41mm upside-down forks and single rear shocks. But the R gets 5mm more fork travel, along with adjustable preload, rebound, and damping. The rear monoshocks also differ on the two models. The R’s upgraded system offers adjustable preload and compression damping with 10mm more travel than its sibling.
Triumph took great measures to lighten the rear section of the Street Triples to present riders with better stability. Besides the new frame, swingarm, and exhaust, the rear wheel and caliper have also been redesigned in order to reduce weight in the rear. Having only ridden the Street Triple R shown in these pictures, I can’t comment on the ride improvement; however, I will say that I was impressed. With a wet weight of just over 400 pounds, the ratio of power to overall weight rivals the super-sportiest of motorcycles. Takeoffs are predictably fast, but controlled, and keeping the front wheels down isn’t a struggle; the R felt evenly planted even during quick acceleration. The high pegs positioned me slightly forward, which seems natural for the aggressive-style bike, but after about an hour, my lower back was done. A little more arm length or stronger abs would make all the difference. The seat doesn’t trap you in like the old Speed Triple did, so shifting my weight is easy to do.
Typical of Triumph, the Street Triple’s instrument cluster doesn’t leave track day junkies wanting more. Recording lap times is something I’ve never done and don’t care to do. I also didn’t care to set the shift lights to illuminate the bar of blue LEDs at any particular rpm. In fact, when I took possession of my tester, someone had set it so that they lit up at just 2000 rpm. I barely got moving before my peripheral vision caught blue. It didn’t bother me, but it must have bugged one of my co-workers because it was reset to more realistic settings after a RoadBike test-bike trade.
What I did like about the instrument cluster was the large digital speedo and the analog tachometer. It’s a combination that works well, and the cluster’s placement made quick glances easy to see. Smaller, useful info includes a clock, fuel gauge, coolant temperature gauge, and gear position indicator. Besides the usual array of warning lights, you can also toggle through a plethora of other info: lap timer, two trip meters, odometer, distance travelled, time travelled, fuel consumption, and range to empty. There may well be more info available, but I admit that I didn’t read all 50 pages of the manual that explains the details of the dash. Just learning the combination of which two buttons would reset my tripmeter was enough for my short test period.
Neither of the Street Triples come with any kind of wind protection, but I noted that Triumph’s consumer (and media) site pictures them with a few popular, optional accessories, including a front cowl and a small bug screen above the dual headlights. Traveling for any length of time on the highway gets tiring quickly, but this isn’t a bike one purchases for lots of long-distance traveling. Mounting soft saddlebags is definitely easier with the exhaust can positioned way down low, but finding bungee mounts on the naked rear end is challenging. Luckily, the fuel tank is made of good old-fashioned metal, so magnetic tankbags work well for essentials.
No, I wouldn’t want to tour on a Street Triple, but commutes, day rides, and track days are this bike’s forte. Easy enough for newer riders to master, but powerful enough for pros, this Triple is a sure hit all around. If you plunk down the extra $600 for the R, your money is well spent on superior brakes and suspension components.
If the Street Triple is Triumph’s biggest seller, why don’t we see them parked at motorcycle events? The answer is obvious: because they’re the most fun when in motion.
By Tricia Szulewski, Photos by Tom Riles
Originally published in RoadBike, September/October 2013.